Natural vs Relationship Based Horsemanship

Finding “Natural Horsemanship” felt like the best thing I could do for myself and my horse,  back when I first became a horse owner in the early 1990s.

I studied at home and at clinics around the Eastern USA for 10 years and then changed my whole life to go away to horsemanship school for the entire year of 2005.  I learned to be safe and effective with horses but when I came home, I started to observe things in my herd that were contrary to my horsemanship education.

Little by little from then until now,  I discovered that the way of the herd is different than the way of the domestic horse in un-natural environments.  And, there is a way to literally be even more natural with horses than the world of Natural Horsemanship.

This whole idea of dominance and submission is not something that you find in the natural world or in congruent herds.  This is something we see in herds that are stressed in un-natural environments.

Now stay open-minded here.

I know you can find and see countless you-tube videos and gurus who will prove this theory. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your own pasture.  So have I.

However, upon further observation, when I see this dominance, it is demonstrated over limited resources.  Limited resources like:

  • The hay house
  • The hay net or pile
  • People, people with treats
  • The gate.  Because that usually means, horses are coming in to eat concentrates etc.

In the natural world,  there literally is no competition for limited resources.  The resources are unlimited.  Wild herds live on hundreds of thousands of acres of diverse landscape and resources.  No one is bringing out piles of hay, no one is bringing all the horses in at 3 PM for their evening meal.  No one is separating the horses.  (Let’s not get into the Bureau of Land Management here.)

The horses choose their herds.

  • If a horse doesn’t want to stay in its current herd, it will take much work on the part of the stallion to keep her.  She will leave and go with another herd.
  • If the horse is a colt, at a certain age, he will be sent out of his herd and need to find a bachelor herd of stallions in the same boat as him to become part of for safety, companionship and for simulating and working on strength and moves that will help him learn what he needs to learn to one day win over his own band of mares.
    When I say to win over, I don’t necessarily mean to compete with other males for the ladies, but also win over the mares hearts and loyalty.  When they win the mares hearts and desires, they stay together and aligned based on the want to, not by fence, force, showing them who’s boss, intimidation or bribery.

The whole idea of leadership is also taught like there is an absolute, all the time leader.  I disagree.
In the natural world, leadership is shared.  Here’s what I mean.  Again, stay open-minded here and give this some thought.
The leader is often the one with the most need.  For example, in the natural herd (Wild)  the one with the most need may be the nursing mare.  She needs the most to drink, for herself and her nursing foal so she may “lead” the herd to water,  more often.  It may occur like she’s the lead mare, however, I have observed my 30″ tall pony “lead” my herd out to the front lawn for lush grazing.  Perhaps being old, she has the biggest need for the lush grass because her teeth are old and don’t work as well as when she was young.   She has the most need.

So, my observations are that leadership is shared based on need. If, the herd is allowed to live as naturally as possible in captivity.  Living together outside 24/7 with food available at all times.  This lessens stress on the herd and allows for each individual to be known and their strengths to be discovered, naturally.

It’s based on these observations that I’ve learned we can be more herdlike which is ‘more natural than natural horsemanship’

If you want to discuss this further or learn more about consensual or shared because we care leadership, let’s get on the phone and talk about it! Book your call here.

Much 💞,
Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,

MaryAnn Brewer
“Changing Lives, One Relationship at a Time”

Hugging Valentine.JPG


What is it about Girls and Horses?

Girl leaning on horse

Templeton Thompson sings about girls and horses, she says at one point “They were my one safe place.” in her song called Girls and Horses.  Seriously though, why is it that 80% of horses in 2016 are owned by women and girls?

Is it because they are better than a diary that someone else could read? Is it their soft fur? Is it their amazing contrast of power and gentle souls? Homeschool girl and horses

Maybe it is because horses, if left to live in herds of their own design are a matriarchal society.  Maybe this feels natural and right to girls at a young age.

Sylvia Zerbini

I had the honor of spending the weekend with this wonderful woman, Sylvia Zerbini, 9th generation circus family. She shared with us how, as a 9 year old girl, her responsibility was to turn out the horses while on the road which, for a Circus Family, is often. They were performance horses and needed to be looked after carefully on the road, so they gave the job to a young girl. Sylvia shared some of what she learned from the horses with us.

  • Body language – the Universal language – Horses and Humans of all ages and languages understood it.  In fact on the weekend, she spoke to all of our horses in French. The commanding posture learned from the horses earned her the attention of anyone whose attention she wanted.
  • To solve real life problems with the grace of a performer and the grit of a horse.
  • Without question, these horses taught the young Sylvia about her important place in the world and how to project her intentions and experience real results that carried her through rough times.
  • These horses taught her to pick herself up and dust herself off and keep going when there was a particularly hard lesson learned.
  • One more lesson learned: Dominance is not leadership, dominance is just that, dominance and it has it’s place in the world but truly sharing space with horses where all are included – That’s where growth happens and everyone’s needs are met simultaneously and all are respected for their contributions.
  • Learning to be alert to their surroundings, finding safety in the wisdom of the herd and comfort in their collective power. Carrying that power and wisdom through the rest of life’s experiences.

When girls are fostered at a young age to read the wisdom of nature, these life’s lessons go everywhere girls go! Horses are a great vehicle to take them on that journey.

Girls and Horses is a program facilitated at In the Company of Horses for girls 10-12. Join us! 

Oh, wait! Did I mention that those horses were all Stallions that the 9 year old girl was responsible for?

Independence Day

Independence Day

Honoring our Veterans

What does it mean to a Veteran from World War II or Korea or a Vietnam Veteran to know people care about them while they are living in a Veterans Home?

“This is a great day”  said one 94 year old Veteran.  One  gentleman with a sparkling Cowboy hat put his arm around my shoulders and said, “She’s a quarter horse isn’t she, I said Yes Sir, He proceeded to tell me how he and his horse rode at the Cowtown Rodeo and he was a team roper; the smile on his face was priceless!

Cowboy Veteran

Cowboy Veteran

The staff at the Vineland Veterans Home was just as amazing as everyone else,  we thought we were going to an outside function under a tent with a cowboy theme, when we arrived, they said we are going inside to visit with the veterans and take some photos!  I said well, you know when horses get worried, they poop, the young man in charge said, we all do that. It was beautiful.

Visiting with the Veterans

Visiting with the Veterans

This gentleman got right out of his wheel chair to stand so proudly next to Valentine.  As person after person lined up and backed their wheel chairs in between the horses (with great skill I might add) to get their pictures taken I was more and more moved  by each of the stories; none of which I knew.  I only knew they all served in our countries military.  They were not all volunteers, many were drafted into service.  I got thinking about what that meant and more tears fell.

I looked around the room at who was there and I saw many people wearing denim vests covered with patches; I got a glimpse of one of the patches that said “I wasn’t there but I still care.”  More tears fell for me.



And then there was Freedom the Therapy Dog who is a regular visitor at the Vineland Veterans Home.  Young and attentive, I looked over and saw a patch on a denim vest of his person that said “Freedom’s Handler.”  I thought about the veterans and wondered if they should be wearing the same patch. This thought brought more tears for me. I thought of our current wars and drones and I thought of George Washington our earliest president and how he encouraged our earliest American warriors from the backs of his majestic war horses.  I looked over at my girl Valentine standing tall, still and proud while yet another veteran and their family members crowded in to have some photos taken.  The pride I felt for the horses who just as bravely were drafted into military service;  how they stood steadfast, like my Valentine was doing this day.  Tears fell once more.

I wished I had a tissue, I didn’t even have a sleeve, so I just let the tears land where they wanted.



The last person of the day who came outside to visit with the horses before we left was a little tiny woman in a wheel chair; she was hugging a stuffed white animal and singing a patriotic tune, she was kindof bouncing all over like a little girl might.  The woman helping her stretched out her hand to pet Mya, the pony, she said “good kitty kitty kitty”  then she said “you are too big to be a kitty” I told her Mya was a pony; I moved Mya closer and put her head in the little woman’s lap, she didn’t really have a lap because she had no legs, just these two little bouncing stumps; as she tickled Mya under the chin she said “Tickle tickle little pony.”

As we drove away I was moved once again at the magnitude of  what one of the patches I saw on those denim vests said “All gave some; Some gave all.”

In the Company of Horses Inc. had the distinguished honor and privilege to take two of our girls Valentine and Mya to the Vineland Veterans Home here in NJ.  Rolling Thunder NJ is a group of women and men who care about our veterans.  With deep gratitude I can say this experienced changed me.  I will think about Freedom for anyone in a new way.

He lied his way into the arena….


It was a windy cloudy day in the 40’s when the men’s group arrived.  There were 8 of them hanging over the fence petting the horses before they signed their release forms.  When the paperwork was out of the way we had our intro conversation in the arena;  the wind was uncomfortable and one guy excused himself and said, ok, well thanks but I’m not really in this group and I should go wherever I’m suppose to go and besides, I’m really cold, I just wanted to pet a horse and now I’ve done that, so I should go.

We take the horses to an adult residential rehabilitation center for people in the early days of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, so I say to the guy, you know, the thing about the weather is, it’s either cold, or windy or there are bugs, or then there are allergies, or it’s hot, if we are just going to work our recovery program when the weather is right, we are on a narrow road here.   He said, good point, how about I just stay here and see what I can learn.

We had our activity “steps one two and three” and when we were done, the guy comes over and makes a point of stopping us to say, I am so glad I stayed, I thought we were just going to pet the horses, I never imagined I was going to learn something valuable for my life!

Managing your issues

Zig and BE at work

It was practice for the “real”world outside of rehab when they would really have to manage their triggers and their denial.  Those were the metaphors they named the horses and their jobs were to get the horses to go to the pockets they designated ahead of time as a group while staying in a line between the buckets.  They went through a lot!  The horses were running everywhere and the group was split and chaotic, but then they made a big shift and got themselves together.  Once their triggers were managed they could turn all their attention on their denial.  This lesson won’t soon be forgotten by anyone who was lucky enough to participate in this Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session..



That’s what these teenage boys named this pony because they thought she would be the easiest because of her size. They said adults also underestimate them. So what are we, as a society, expecting from our young people?


Kids and Horses – Perfect Together

Kids and Horses - Perfect Together

When Kids and horses come together for the opportunity to grow and learn together, Miracles Happen! Not only do people grow in self confidence when they earn the cooperation of a horse but they have fun problem solving!


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